I saw the face of God once, in the summer clouds over my backyard fence. One minute it was water vapor and the next: My God, It’s God! That’s what I thought, anyway. I was a kid all those years ago and the preacher’s daughter, so naturally impressionable. And who hasn’t seen shapes in the clouds? Elephant, crocodile, Alfred Hitchcock’s puffy profile. Why not throw God in there too? But it didn’t seem like that, like some childish fantasy.
The minute before I was running home over the grass, hop-scotching dandelions that flashed under my feet. Halfway there, I changed my mind about going inside. It was the sky, the way it invited me to take a running leap and soar up past the power lines. I did the next best thing and flopped to the grass instead, sniffing a chest full of its weedy perfume. The sky was blue as a carnival sno cone, with choppy clouds like shaved ice, except for one that poured all silvery and strange, like the jar of mercury my teacher once brought to school. Continue reading →
I never knew anybody quite like my mother: uneducated but smart, brassy but sweet and hardly what you’d expect in a minister’s wife. “A California wild hair,” she said when I was young, one of the few hints I ever got of her upbringing. If Momma talked about her past you learned to listen quick.
One story I remember turned out to be a lie, and one of plenty. She said right after my birth my name came to her out of thin air: Mercy Grace. I figured she was either overcome by the Holy Spirit or delirious. Neither was true, I found out much later, and neither explained the absence of a birth certificate, which I never bothered to ask about, enthralled as I was by the story of my own birth. My last name, Carsten, was The Reverend Thad Carsten’s, of course, the man I always pictured pacing outside the delivery room, and why wouldn’t I? He was the only father I ever knew. Continue reading →